‘Fat Leonard,’ a fugitive in a U.S. Navy bribery case, was caught in Venezuela : NPR

Leonard Francis, a Malaysian defense contractor nicknamed “Fat Leonard” who orchestrated one of the biggest bribery scandals in U.S. military history, was arrested in Venezuela after fleeing before sentenced, authorities said.

US Marshals Service via AP, File

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US Marshals Service via AP, File

Leonard Francis, a Malaysian defense contractor nicknamed “Fat Leonard” who orchestrated one of the biggest bribery scandals in U.S. military history, was arrested in Venezuela after fleeing before sentenced, authorities said.

US Marshals Service via AP, File

SAN DIEGO – A Malaysian defense contractor nicknamed “Fat Leonard” who orchestrated one of the largest bribery scandals in US military history has been arrested in Venezuela after flee before sentencingauthorities said Wednesday.

The international manhunt for Leonard Glenn Francis ended with him being arrested by Venezuelan authorities Tuesday morning at Caracas airport as he prepared to board a plane to another country, the United States Police Agency said. Ky said.

Interpol Venezuela Director General Carlos Garate Rondon arrived in Venezuela from Mexico with a stopover in Cuba, Interpol Venezuela Director General Carlos Garate Rondon said in a statement posted on Instagram. The agency said Francis traveled to Russia and was arrested at the main international airport in Caracas.

The arrest came on the eve of his scheduled sentencing date in federal court in California for a bribery conspiracy that spanned more than a decade and involved dozens of US Navy officers.

There was no immediate information on when he might be extradited to the United States.

At Thursday’s sentencing hearing, U.S. District Court Judge Janis Sammartino announced in court that Francis was being held in Venezuela and that a “arrest warrant” had been issued.

“This event raises a number of issues, and will obviously have an impact on other cases,” she said. A sentencing hearing for the four Navy officers who were tried in the case and found guilty will take place in October.

Prosecutors asked the court to note that Francis did not appear at his sentencing hearing as requested, while defense attorneys informed the court that they would file a motion to cut ties. relationship with Francis due to the “irreparable rupture of the attorney-client relationship”. “

Sammartino has set up a December 14 status hearing for Francis with the warning that all parties could meet sooner depending on how events unfold.

“I believe that’s all we were able to accomplish this morning,” Sammartino said.

Due to bad relations with Venezuela, it may be difficult for the US to get Pope Francis back

The U.S. government faces a daunting challenge in bringing defectors back to American soil. The US government does not recognize the socialist government of Nicolas Maduro, has no embassy in the country and has imposed tight sanctions on the country with further fractured relations. Law enforcement cooperation between the two countries is rare.

Francis was under house arrest in San Diego when he cut off his GPS bracelet from his ankle and escaped on September 4. Ten US agencies tracked down Francis and authorities awarded him $40,000 for his work. arrest him.

US authorities have also issued a red notice, which asks law enforcement around the world to temporarily arrest someone for possible extradition. Malaysia and Singapore both have extradition agreements with the United States.

In 2015, Francis pleaded guilty to providing prostitution services, luxury hotels, cigars, gourmet meals and more than $500,000 in bribes to Navy officials and others to help the ship service company get on board. Singapore-based, Glenn Defense Marine Asia Ltd. or GDMA. Prosecutors said the company charged the Navy at least $35 million for the maintenance of its ships, many of which were shipped to ports he controlled in the Pacific.

Francis was allowed to be detained at home to receive medical care while cooperating with the prosecution. With his help, prosecutors convicted 33 of the 34 defendants, including more than two dozen Navy officers.

The judge was afraid Francis would try to escape

Sammartino had feared Francis would run when she refused a request four years ago to allow him to be placed under house arrest without round-the-clock security.

The judge repeatedly insisted that security officers be present to keep Francis under house arrest, despite his poor health.

According to the transcript of a closed-door hearing in February 2018, which was sealed in January, Sammartino expressed concern that her name would come out if Francis escaped and eventually returned to Malaysia if anyone asked” who let someone do this without security.”

She raised similar concerns on December 17, 2020, after receiving reports that the home had been left unattended for nearly three hours, according to court records. The guard was on his lunch break, and Francis apologized to the judge for the negligence.

Officials found no security guards when they arrived at Pope Francis’ home in a small San Diego neighborhood about seven hours after he removed the ankle screen, according to U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Marsha Omar Omar Castillo. The device, believed to have been removed with heavy scissors, was found in the home.

Castillo said someone called the San Diego police department, which sent officers to the home on the afternoon of September 4. Deputies noticed the house was empty and contacted the American Pre-Trial Service, federal agency in charge of his detention, then contacted the US Marshals Service.

Neighbors said they saw U-Haul vans come and go from the home a day or two before fleeing, Castillo said.

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